FX Chief on HBO’s ‘Unfair’ Emmys Maneuver on ‘True Detective’

Why John Landgraf believes Matthew Rhys and Matthew McConaughey shouldn’t compete

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf says it’s “unfair” for HBO to enter “True Detective” in the Emmys dramatic series category rather than as a miniseries, but blames the situation partly on the ambiguity of Emmy criteria.

Both “True Detective” and FX’s shows “American Horror Story” and “Fargo” are anthologies with a new, complete story each season. FX is entering both of its shows in the miniseries category. But HBO has decided to enter “True Detective” as a drama, even though none of the Season 1 cast is expected to return.

Also read: ‘True Detective’ to Compete in Emmys Drama Series Category

“I’m going to try not to cast stones because the truth of the matter is, it’s a very kind of freewheeling and ambiguous situation” when it comes to choosing an Emmys category, Landgraf said at FX’s upfront presentation to reporters Wednesday.

He noted that some critics have accused FX of cynically entering “American Horror Story” in the miniseries category because it believes the show has a better chance of winning there.

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But Landgraf said he believes the show is in the correct category — and that “True Detective” may not be.

“My own personal point of view is that a miniseries is a story that ends, a series is a story that continues. To tell you the truth, I think it’s actually unfair for HBO to put ‘True Detective’ in the drama series category because essentially you can get certain actors to do a closed-ended series, a la Billy Bob Thornton in ‘Fargo’ or Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in ‘True Detective,’ who you can’t get to sign on for a seven-year deal.”

Landgraf stressed that he and HBO simply have a difference of opinion. But he said he fears a day when shows that sign A-listers for one season may crowd out ongoing series like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” in the top drama series categories.

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He added that it’s unfair for an actor like “Americans” star Matthew Rhys — who develops a character over several seasons — to compete with an Oscar winner like McConaughey who appears for one.

Many film stars are happy to sign on for one season of TV, but won’t sign a typical seven-year contract for an ongoing series because it would limit their other prospects.

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He also said he doesn’t believe dramas should compete in comedy categories. This season, Showtime’s “Shameless” decided to switch from the drama to the comedy race.

“I think the definition of a comedy is it’s predominantly designed to make you laugh, not make you cry,” he said.